Understanding how well a physical brick and mortar store is performing is a straightforward process. You can hire a third-party to uncover shopping habits, report on the checkout experience for your store or analyze PoS (point of sale) data to better understand business metrics like profit margins and total sales volume.
For online retailers, grabbing similar insights isn’t as easy. Without physical shoppers to observe, ecommerce stores have to identify patterns from the digital sessions on their online store, and really get into deep analysis to truly understand what leads to the greatest checkout abandonment.
Luckily, there’s a tool designed to provide online retailers with the same level of transparency for their website. When set-up correctly, Google Analytics can provide a lot of information about your site’s performance.
Ready to start making smarter business decisions? In this article we’ll cover:
- Why spend time setting up a Google Analytics instance?
- What do online merchants forget to track & optimize for?
- 4 common Google Analytics mistakes
- How to set up Google Analytics properly for your ecommerce store
- Top 3 Google Analytics hacks for ecommerce businesses
Let’s start by covering why you should invest time into Google Analytics.
Why spend time setting up a Google Analytics instance?
Setting up Google Analytics properly allows online retailers to better understand what occurs on their ecommerce site. Google provides real-time analytics on your site’s traffic trends, user behavior, user personas, which pages perform the best, and conversion rates.
Analysing these metrics over a period of time as well as spikes at any given point in time, can help understand the user experience better. Mapping this experience with your goals can help achieve better conversions and acquire customers.
What do online merchants forget to track & optimize for?
Not all metrics are created equal when dealing with an ecommerce site. Optimizing your site for growth involves focusing on the right ecommerce metrics from the start. We’re sharing some key metrics your business should track to help you better understand your customers and uncover opportunities to boost the conversion rate on your site.
1. Uncovering audience insights
Metric to track: Web traffic
What this metric can help you answer: Who are the people visiting my ecommerce store?
Google’s web traffic report is useful for painting a comprehensive picture of the traffic hitting your site. You can uncover demographic information such as age, gender, geography (language and general geographic location) as well as the devices (desktop vs. mobile users, Mac vs. PC, etc.) they prefer to browse from.
How to access this report:
From the homepage > Audience > Overview
Let’s suppose that after looking at this report, you noticed an uptick in mobile shoppers browsing your site and completing their purchase from their smartphones. With this knowledge, your business might decide to invest additional resources into your site’s mobile checkout experience. By optimizing your site with a more seamless experience, you can help increase the conversion rate by capturing more mobile shoppers.
2. Uncovering acquisition insights
Metric to track: Traffic sources
What this metric can help you answer: Which traffic source drives the most visitors to my online store?
Need to understand which channels (paid, organic search, social) are performing the best? Or perhaps you’re wondering how effective your affiliate marketing program is at driving new customers? The referral traffic and traffic sources dashboard helps you understand the channels that are most effective for driving visitors to your site.
How to access this report:
From the homepage > Acquisition > Overview
3. Uncovering conversion insights
Metric to track: Ecommerce conversion rate
What this metric can help you answer: How well am I converting site visitors into paying customers?
You’ve invested considerable effort increasing awareness for your products, and now you’re rewarded with a healthy influx of traffic to your product pages. But do these visitors end up converting?
The Google Analytics ecommerce dashboard provides sales insights on the highest performing products, total transaction volume, and your store’s conversion rate. The findings can help you determine if you need to optimize certain campaigns to drive higher quality shoppers to your site, fix problems that might be on your site, or double-down on high-converting products.
How to access this report:From the homepage > Conversions > Goals > Overview
*Note: Google Analytics ecommerce tracking must be enabled.
4. User Engagement Insights
Metric to track: Bounce rate/time on page/funnel conversion rate
What this metric can help you answer: What are visitors doing after they’ve landed on a page?
You might discover that despite being able to attract a considerable amount of traffic to your site, many of these site visitors are not engaging with your online store, and choosing instead leave the site altogether. The ecommerce conversion funnel report can also help your business identify friction in your checkout process by visualizing any drop offs before purchase completion.
How to access this report:
From the homepage > Conversions > Goals > Funnel Visualization
4 common Google Analytics mistakes
You’re only as good as your tools and the data at your disposal. To make the most of your Google Analytics instance, ensure you’re avoiding these common mistakes.
1. Not enabling ecommerce tracking
Access to ecommerce reports is the main reason you’ve enabled tracking in the first place. Not to be confused with the regular reporting provided by Google Analytics, enabling ecommerce tracking unlocks previously hidden ecommerce reports to provide online retailers with more ways to capture and analyze ecommerce data and further study customer engagement.
Additional data points provided by enhanced ecommerce tracking:
- Products: What items are shoppers purchasing, how many items, and how much revenue your store is generating from these sales.
- Transactions: Number of goods sold, shipping, taxes, and sales revenue.
- Conversion Funnel: Session count and pageviews between the first interaction and a completed sale, and data on conversion rates.
Additional ecommerce reports:
- Ecommerce Overview
- Shopping Behavior Analysis
- Checkout Behavior Analysis
- Product Performance
- Sales Performance
- Product List Performance
How to enable ecommerce tracking:
Step 1. Navigate to the Admin area of your GA account and tap on ecommerce settings.
Step 2. Enable ecommerce tracking by switching the setting from “OFF” to “ON”.
Step 3. Add the tracking code to your online store to send the transaction data.
Be sure to reference the technical guide for your respective ecommerce partner since setup will vary across the different platforms.
Here’s a comprehensive video from Google on the topic: Enhanced Ecommerce
2. Not excluding home or office IP
To reduce the risk of skewing your ecommerce data, make sure you’re omitting internal traffic. Imagine if your team was rolling out changes to your checkout flow and testing the buying experience internally. Any incomplete transactions could cause your checkout abandonment rate to increase and negatively skew your site’s conversion rate.
To prevent this from happening, consider excluding internal traffic by creating a filter in GA and including all the IP addresses you don’t want Google to track. To do this:
- Create a new filter with a clear label like “Exclude Internal IP”
- Under “Filter Type,” select Custom
- In the “Filter Field” dropdown, select IP Address
- In the “Filter Pattern” field, enter the IP address you don’t want Google to track
Note: If you’d like to exclude additional IP addresses (maybe you’re working with a partner or agency), you can do so by separating each IP address with a pipe “|” symbol.
3. Relying on a single data source or dashboard
Google Analytics is an extremely powerful tool because of the amount of information provided to ecommerce merchants. Metrics like time on page and number of sessions are helpful data points to help you better understand your site’s performance.
However, it’s important to make sure you don’t just accept the data at face value. Be sure to do your due diligence and consult additional dashboards and reports to make sure you have all the data necessary to make the most informed decision. This also helps validate that Google Analytics has been setup correctly on your site.
How to set up Google Analytics properly for your ecommerce store
Step 1. Click on Admin in the bottom-left corner of your Google Analytics dashboard
Once logged in to Google Analytics, navigate to the admin panel to set up tracking on your website.
Step 2. Select an account from the menu in the “Account” column
If you have multiple websites, all will be displayed here.
Step 3. Select a property from the menu in the “Property” column
Step 4. Under “Property,” click Tracking Info > Tracking Code
Your Google Analytics ID is displayed at the top of the page.
Step 5. Copy the entire contents inside the Global Site Tag (gtag.js) textbox
Step 6. Paste it immediately after the <head> tag on each page of your site
Top 3 Google Analytics hacks for ecommerce businesses
Here are the 3 tips online retailers should follow to ensure they are maximizing the utility of their Google Analytics instance.
Tip #1. Benchmarking against competitors
Benchmark web property performance against other similar competitors.
Why do this: Benchmarking allows your business to compare your data with aggregated industry data from other companies who have also opted in. This allows you to better gauge how well your store is performing relative to other similarly positioned ecommerce companies.
How to access this information:
From dashboard homepage > Audience (in the reports menu) > Benchmarking > Select from 3 dimensions: Channels, Location, or Devices (from the dropdown menu)
Note: Google allows businesses to apply three filters: industry vertical, country/region, and daily sessions; this is especially handy, as you’ll be able to filter out the companies that are the most similar to your business.
Web Property: Google Merchandise Store
- Industry Vertical: Clothing Accessories
- Region: All
- Daily Session: 500-999
The report above displays traffic performance for each of Google’s channels. Channels that are performing above industry standards are displayed in green, while those that are underperforming are highlighted in red.
Tip #2. Enable Site Search
Enable site search analytics gives businesses an overview of on-site engagement.
Why do this:
On-site search analytics can help you uncover insights about the products and services your shoppers are interested in. You might discover that searches for a particular item have ramped up over the past couple of weeks and upon closer inspection, you’ve also noticed an uptick in the number of units sold for that particular item. Since there’s an active interest in this item, you might decide to feature it directly on your homepage so more shoppers can easily find the product.
How to access this information:
From the homepage > Behavior (in the reports menu) > Site Search > Overview (from the drop-down menu)
From the report above we can see that less than 0.01% of visitors in the Merchandise Store used the site search and for those searchers, the most popular search term was “gopher.”
Tip #3. Tap into the greater suite of Google tools
Leverage Google’s complete analytics suite to get a holistic view of your business’ performance.
Why do this:
Google Analytics is a powerful standalone tool, but you can maximize its effectiveness by integrating with the other tools in Google’s analytics suite such as Google Search Console and Google Data Studio.
Together, you’ll be able to juxtapose your organic performance from Search Console and conversion metrics from Google Analytics in one easy-to-read Data Studio dashboard.